October 10, 2016 Library of Congress Ceremonial Office Opened for Public Viewing

Press Contact: Gayle Osterberg (202) 707-0020, Sheryl Cannady (202) 707-6456, Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden today announced that the historic and architecturally beautiful Ceremonial Office in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building will be open to the public. Previously, the room was visited only by permission.

The office will be open for public viewing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with the exception of periodic times when it is needed for official business. The Jefferson Building is located at 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.

The Ceremonial Office was the office of the Librarian of Congress for more than 80 years, from 1897 to 1980, until the working office was moved across the street to the newly opened James Madison Memorial Building. Since 1980, the room has been used for ceremonial purposes. Visiting kings, queens, presidents and other heads of state have viewed treasures from the Library’s collections in the privacy of this room.

In 1975, in a safe located in the office’s closet, newly sworn-in Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin discovered a package containing the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the night he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre, April 14, 1865. The items had been a donation to the Library from Lincoln’s granddaughter, the daughter of Robert Todd Lincoln, in 1937. The contents included two pairs of eyeglasses, a penknife, a watch fob, a cuff link, a monogrammed handkerchief and a wallet (which contained newspaper clippings about Lincoln and a Confederate $5 bill). The items were placed on display on Feb. 12, 1976, following a press conference where Boorstin replayed his unwrapping of the package and revealed the contents to the public for the first time.

The highly decorative Ceremonial Office has a central disc in the domed ceiling that displays a painting by Edward J. Holslag of a woman holding a scroll in her hand accompanied by a child holding a torch. On a streamer below her is the phrase “Litera scripta manet” (The written word endures). Holslag, born in Buffalo, New York, was only 22 years old when he painted the Library murals.

Figures of Grecian girls stand in a ring around the disc. The plasterwork is by Albert Weinert, who also sculpted the dolphins in the Neptune Fountain in front of the Jefferson Building, and many other details in the building. Below the female figures are alternating panels of open books and owls.

There are four additional circular paintings in the corners of the dome. The inscriptions, starting over the door and moving left to right, read “In tenebris lux” (In darkness, light); “Liber delectation animae” (Books, the delight of the soul); “Efficiunt clarum studio” (They make it clear by study/Study the watchword of fame); and “Dulce ante Omnia musae” (The Muses, above all things, delightful).

The Librarian’s carved oak desk is original to the room, and the semicircular wall lights in the Ceremonial Office proudly display bulbs without shades. The bare bulbs were a design statement in the late 19th century, because the Jefferson Building was the first public building constructed with electrical wiring in the city of Washington.

The Jefferson Building, constructed in an Italian Renaissance style, opened its doors to the public on Nov. 1, 1897. Previously, the Library of Congress was housed for 97 years—since it was established in 1800—in various locations within the U. S. Capitol Building. Construction of a separate building was authorized in 1886 and started around 1890 with interior work starting in 1892. The building was completed on time and $200,000 under the $6.5 million authorized budget. It features the works of more than 40 American sculptors and painters.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov, and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.


PR 16-181
ISSN 0731-3527